One of America's oldest nurses still going strong - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

One of America's oldest nurses still going strong

COVINGTON, TN - (WMC-TV) – She was there the day penicillin was introduced.  She was at the hospital the night Elvis Presley was pronounced dead.  She used to treat Archie Manning for football injuries.  Now she is making history of her own.

With her application submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records, Helen Deneka may be the oldest nurse in America, and says retirement is nowhere in her vocabulary.

She's seen a lot in 65 years of seeing patients, and at 86 years old, she shows no signs of slowing down. She's been with Baptist Hospital almost three quarters of its one hundred year history.

"They come in here and say, oh, you're still here. Yeah, I'm still here," Deneka said.

She spent most of her career as a nurse anesthetist.

"When I did anesthesia, you didn't have all these monitors like you do now, you had to do everything by hand, take blood pressures by hand, take the pulse by hand, watch patients," she said.

These days you'll find her in the ambulatory care unit at Baptist Hospital Tipton in Covington. She's usually the last person patients see before heading off to surgery.

"A lot of people look at me, and say, that old woman, I don't want you starting my IV. But I start it anyway."

Some patients actually request "Ms Helen".

"She reassures you, the whole time you're here, letting you know everything's gonna be alright," said patient Leigh Huffman.

Deneka says she's alright with most of the advances in medicine over the past six decades, but there are some things she's not fond of.

"Paperwork. Too much paperwork, and now they're gonna go on computer in '13, and I don't know if I can handle that or not. I'm not too good with computers," she said. "You can't give good care to patients as you'd like because you've got so much paperwork you've got to do."

No matter the changes, Helen Deneka says she's not ready to hang up her hat quite yet.

Because of her love for medicine, two of Helen Deneka's three boys are also in the same field. One son is a paramedic in Tipton County. The other is an orthopedic surgeon in Nashville.

Her advice for those in nursing school:

"Don't go into it just for money. Go into it because you want to be a good nurse."

A good nurse, even at age 86. 

"Remarkable, that's all you can say. She's remarkable," Leigh Huffman said. 

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